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When Social Media Goes Bad: Advice for Parents

It's estimated one in five Indiana kids has been contacted by a predator on social media, and many of them have no idea it's happened. (Sierra Black)
February 9. 2016
It's estimated one in five Indiana kids has been contacted by a predator on social media, and many of them have no idea it's happened. (Sierra Black)

INDIANAPOLIS - Social media is here to stay and, while there are many positive aspects of being online, there are also some dangers especially for children. In Indiana, it's estimated that one in five children has been contacted online by a sexual predator. Those statistics come from the Morgan County Sheriff's Office.

Captain Brent Worth conducts workshops and seminars for kids and adults to warn them of what to look out for on social media. He's found kids who are slow to make friends or are feeling left out at school can be at risk.

"For the kids that aren't very socially interactive with the other kids, they're more susceptible to these types of danger," says Worth. "Because these people do tell them what they want to hear."

Worth says for law enforcement, social media has been a growing source of serious issues, including cyber-bullying, crimes against children and identity theft. The Indiana Youth Institute teams up this month with the Children's Bureau, Inc., and Youth Connections to host forums around the state.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics has found social media can cause depression and anxiety among teenagers. Worth says that's where good family support comes in. He tells parents they need to put away their own phones and laptops, and spend more quality time with their kids.

"There's a whole disconnect between social media and the family," he says. "Kids aren't as connected with the family these days, and the parents aren't as connected with the kids, because they're all planted into their phone."

Worth says predators know what to say to kids to get them to "friend" them and interact online. He encourages parents to trust their intuition, if they think something's wrong with a young person who's spending lots of time online, there probably is.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN